World number one Novak Djokovic is one game away from one of the greatest sporting achievements, with a Grand Slam schedule on the line after beating German Alexander Zverev 4-6 6-2 6-4 4-6 6- 2 in the US Semifinal open on Friday.
Djokovic moved one win away from reaching a men’s record 21 Grand Slam titles and avenged his loss to Zverev at the Tokyo Olympics in front of a roaring crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, with Rod Laver sitting in the front row, 52 years after achieving the title. feat, the last man to do it.
Currently tied three-way for most of the top men’s tennis titles at 20 a piece with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, with whom he forms the “Big Three” of tennis, Djokovic could also surpass his rivals in sheer trophies. Grand Slam. if you win on Sunday.
Both Federer and Nadal missed the best final of the year due to injury.
“There’s only one game left. All in, all in. Let’s do it,” Djokovic said.
“I’m going to put my heart and my soul and my body and my head into it. I’m going to treat the next game like it’s the last game of my career.”
He will meet Russian Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final after the world number two sent off 21-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime in his semi-final.
Djokovic gave the German his first break of the night with a double fault in the first set, but otherwise showed no mercy, shooting 41 winners and a dozen aces throughout the match.
The third set was a matter of survival of the fittest. Djokovic held a 40-0 lead in the 10th game only to see Zverev fend off two break points in marathon rallies, including a 53-shot exchange, before breaking the German’s serve for set point.
Tied at two sets a piece, Djokovic won a 30-shot play for the early break, but after fending off four break points he saw Zverev convert in the seventh game. He broke Zverev’s serve in the next game before raising his arms to cheers from the crowd.
“The best atmosphere in the tournament so far,” said Djokovic, who has had an uneven relationship with the New York crowd at times. “These are the moments we live for and these are the kind of unique opportunities we dream of every day … So thank you so much for making it special.”
The night was another disappointment for Zverev, who came within two points of winning the tournament a year ago and must leave empty-handed again, having also reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros.
“Alexander is a great champion, he is someone I admire on and off the court,” said Djokovic.
“I knew that coming onto the field today there will be a great battle, as we said, before this game. I hope we have brought energy.”
The 34-year-old Serbian has faced little trouble this year at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, defeating sixth seed Matteo Berrettini in the quarterfinals, after a stellar 2021 in which he has only lost five games.
He leads Medvedev 5-3 head-to-head, most recently defeating the Russian in straight sets in the Australian Open final.
“It’s going to be a battle against another guy who’s been in tremendous shape,” Djokovic said. “On the other hand, I will give everything I can in the tank to win this match.”
He has already lifted the US Open trophy three times before, and has now equaled Roger Federer’s record of 31 major men’s singles finals, but steadfastly avoided questions about the possible calendar hit after their semi-final match.
“I know we want to talk about history. I know what is at stake. I am aware of it. Of course, I am aware of it,” he said.
“But I’m just trying to lock myself into what I know works for me. I have my routines, I have my people. I isolate myself. I gather all the energy I need for the next battle, just for the next fight, the next fight.” . “
As tennis fans around the world enjoy a never-ending debate over who of tennis’s “Big Three” can truly claim the title of “Greatest of All Time”, for Zverev, the matter was now settled.
“If you look at the statistics, if you look at the pure game of tennis action, he is the best of all time,” Zverev said. “There is no one with him, because most weeks he is World No. 1, most Masters 1000 titles, most likely the most Grand Slams at the end of the day.
“And you have a chance to win all four in the same year. How do you compete with that?”